Kazas is the traditional home of the indigenous Shors and is located several hundred meters from a coal mine. The owners of the five homes destroyed by fire were the village’s last residents; they had refused to sell their homes and land to the Yuzhnaya coal company. The village basically ceased to exist after the fires, and the residents did not receive any compensation. Yana and Vladislav Tannagashev—two activists who fought against the village’s demise—were forced to flee Russia because of threats from government bodies and mining company representatives.
The situation in Kazas is not unique. Russia has over 40 officially recognized small indigenous peoples, whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and Russian law. The most important of these rights is the right to use and preserve traditional lands and participate in making decisions that affect the interests of indigenous peoples. Most of these groups live on territories in Siberia, the North, and the Far East that are rich with mineral resources, including coal (Kemerovo Oblast), oil and gas (Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous Oblast), and biological resources like fish (Kamchatka, Khabarovsk Krai). Today the extraction of mineral resources results in the destruction of places where indigenous peoples have traditionally lived and subsisted. This has forced them to move to cities and turn away from their traditional lifestyles, customs, and cultures. Representatives of indigenous peoples call this ethnocide.